"Your rosebud's popping," Lebreau pointed, uncasing another large trunk of beers to be refrigerated.

Lightning grunted and crossed to the offending napkin and loosed it for refolding. "It's a useless event. Work isn't the place for personal celebrations using company funding."

"Aww, lighten up, Lightning," Lebreau chided, "I'll try to pull you back behind the bar in the middle of the night if I can, so you're not stuck serving his table all night. Will that make it better?"

Lightning growled, flattening her next doily to fold the shape of a rose. "It's still not appropriate for the boss to require attendance for his birthday."

"I'm telling you, Light," Lebreau shook her head, "Fuck him. Literally, he'll move on from you by the end of the night and you'll have nothing else to worry about on the job."

Lightning's features scrunched. "He's like a hundred, Lebreau."

"You better not make that joke at the party," Lebreau admonished, "And he wasn't that bad. A little flabby, maybe, but nothing good Viagra couldn't fix."

"You're disgusting."

"It was one night! He even gave me a pay raise and job security. You could probably give him a little shimmy, shimmy yourself, you know? He'd probably take you off the ice."

"Ugh," Lightning cringed, "Stop, please. Now."

"There'll be others at the party tonight, though. Think of all the fresh young cadets all lined in a row, ready for picking, and twisting, and hopefully combining!" Lightning cast her a look, "You should really try them too," Lebreau encouraged, "They're limber."

Lightning sighed. Lebreau finished the box and tossed it down the chute. She removed another from the stack of them. "There's also going to be a gorgeous, suckable Yun attending the table you serve, Lightttning."

"My mouth doesn't go where yours likes to turn, Lebreau. I'll leave that Yun-sucking to you."

"Gahh, Lightning! You're such a stick in the mud. And blind. Her breasts alone are enough to make a girl swoon to grab 'em."

Lightning rolled her eyes. "Not really my style."

"Oh pshh," Lebreau waved her off, "You need to be more open-minded to the possibilities. You won't even admire her bulge with me! And that's something you're into!"

Lightning rubbed at her temple, "I'm getting a headache. Why don't we ever talk about the weather?"

Lebreau tutted. "Really, Light, she's beautiful and packed. What more could you want? I wish she watched me the same way she does you. Fuck."

"Stop imagining about us together," Lightning groused, recognizing that glossy look in Lebreau's eye. "You're so disturbing. How do you daydream about us like that?"

"With you on top, definitely," Lebreau assured, "My favorite's when you're tittyfucking and getting off with her to that giant cock between your breasts."

"Why are we friends?"

Lebreau grinned. "I keep you employed. Don't think Dysley was just for me now! I worked you into that deal too! You're lucky I'm such a good friend and didn't charge you equal trade for that."

"I'm gonna cry if you keep this up."

"You can cry?" Lebreau teased. Lightning shot her an annoyed look, just finishing the last rose.

"Where'd they stack the new shipment of plates, 'Breau?" Lebreau thumbed backwards, indicating a tall pile of boxes by the door. Lightning started towards it.

"Light!" Lightning turned at the call, spotting Fang approaching. She gave a little nod in greeting as the other woman drew near, reaching up for the top box of plates stacked high on the pile.

"Hey, Fang," Lightning greeted kindly, tugging at the top box, which slid a few inches along the top to Lightning's waiting arms. Proving heavier than she'd expected, Lightning stumbled back under the sudden weight, losing her footing.

"Whoa!" Fang darted out and caught her, one arm around her shoulder, other catching around the bottom precarious edge of the box. Lightning's balance caught with a gentle push to bring her back up. Though she couldn't see her around the box, Fang's concern echoed genuinely. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Lightning steadied, "Thanks." Fang's arm dropped from her back when she was sure it was safe and lifted to the plates instead.

"I'll get these," Fang volunteered, lifting her other hand to support them.

"You sure?"

"Yeah," She still couldn't see her yet, but the smile was always evident in Fang's voice. "You can let go." Lightning dropped her grip, letting Fang shoulder them. Fang turned to her, friendly features turning up at Lightning. "Where do you want these?"

"This way," Lightning headed over first, "Just between the tables." Fang lowered the box between the first two. "Thank you."

"I can get the others for you," Fang offered.

"Mmm," Lebreau had stopped working to watch and admire the corded beauty in those low-rise, ripped-cut jeans. "Please do. We could use some'a that Yun strength, right, Lightning?"

Lightning shook her head dismissively before Fang turned to her for confirmation. "If you've got the minute, we could use the help. Bart'll be on my ass if I drop one of those."

"Sure," Fang agreed, "In fact, I'll trade you," Fang pulled out a folded slip of paper from a back pocket and handed it over. "Dysley wanted an accounting of the new plates ordered in. If you can count the plates per box, I'll grab the boxes."

Lightning unfolded the order form and flattened it. "He's got you on messenger tasks now?"

Fang started back for the stack. "Ahh, I was just heading out. He caught me outside the office."

"He's sneaky like that," Lebreau agreed, making Lightning cringe. Fang started back, toting two boxes this time. "So Fang, you going to this little party of his tonight?"

"That's the second thing he caught me for," Fang admitted, putting down a box between the next two tables. "Sounds tacky, really. Why?" Fang lowered the second box casually, "Will… you and Light be serving?"

Lebreau winked. "You bet we will."

"Ugh," Lightning grumbled, ripping open the top of the box rather vehemently. "I have to serve his table."

"He invited me to his table," Fang rubbed the back of her neck. "Maybe I'll go… "

"We wouldn't mind your company," Lebreau purred, eyes lit up on the back of Lightning's work-distracted head. She peeked over at Fang and smiled, who busied herself with another two boxes.

"At least someone at the party won't reach for my ass," Lightning muttered.

Fang came back with two more full boxes. "You should quit, Light. Just come merc it out with me. You don't even need a uniform for this job."

"Ughh," Lightning rubbed her temples, penning in the numbers, "You've no idea how tempting that is."

"I would give you my recommendation…" Fang offered, prompting Lebreau to give Fang an eyebrow. Fang pretended not to see it. "They'd take us up anywhere if I vouched. Even Pulse."

"Serah would kill me, taking a job that dangerous." Lightning sighed, "It's a lot of hours; she's still too young."

Fang shrugged, falling just short of nonchalant. "Maybe in a few years then…"

"Something to look forward to," Lightning breathed. Fang made her last trip. "Nine boxes, Fang?"

"Nine boxes," she confirmed, hoisting the last ones over.

"Good," Lightning scribbled in some other figures. "Appreciate the help."

"Of course," Fang nodded, setting down the last two.

"We'll see you at dinner then, Fang?" Lebreau prompted, eyes gleaming between them both.

"Yeah, maybe," Fang took a few hesitant steps back to Lightning, but paused short. Lightning was just finishing the slip. "You want me to take it back to him for you?"

Lightning smiled sweetly, warming Fang to the heart. She stood. "That's okay, Fang. I'll suffer it. Thank you. See you at the dinner?"



"Ahh, and my sweet Amaryllis, here to serve me like a good and faithful wife." Lightning just avoided sneering. Picking up the empty beer glasses from the table, Lightning steeled herself to those customary chuckles from Dysley's inner circle and brownnosers. Half the table responded with a sympathetic wince; only one with an eye of jealousy. Fang hesitated to touch her shoulder, wanting to soothe Lightning, but stopped herself short and dropped her raised hand. Lightning wouldn't appreciate that in public, and Dysley would only use it as another leeway to tease her. "Double time on that refill, Sweet Cheeks! Don't leave me hanging!"

Serah, Lightning reminded herself firmly, I need this job for Serah. Cocoon Sanctum Corps were one of the richest companies in the world, and they took care of their own. Financially, at least. With her level of education as a highschool dropout, Lightning couldn't find a better catering job anywhere with this much coverage and scholarship funding that the Corps provided.

A tic worked in Lightning's jaw as she turned from the table, but a hand lifted to her hip from behind then. Lightning almost smashed the glass bottles on his head when she turned. Almost.


She turned back to him, side-stepping out of reach closer to Fang. "Sir?"

"Your pretty rosebud has fallen to the floor," Dysley pointed to one of the linens she was sure she hadn't knocked over. "Do pick it up please, lovely sugarflower."

Lightning resisted smacking him up the head with her tray. A while ago, Dysley had ordered new uniforms for the servers, which left Lightning in a spectacle of a faux-leather black and white blouse with too much cleavage and a terrible display of ass when she bent over, what remained barely passable for a servitor's dress. She daydreamed of gutting him.

"I've got it, you can go." Before Dysley could balk, Fang had left her chair for the napkin and picked it up instead. Lightning hurried off before more could be demanded, mentally noting to thank Fang later.

"Lebreau!" Lightning returned to the bar with her tray of empty glasses and set it down. "Has Justine showed up yet?"

Lebreau winced sympathetically, catching Lightning every time she retreated to that table. "She hasn't, Light. I'm sorry." Well into the evening already, Justine wasn't showing, Lebreau knew. Lightning would be stuck waitressing his table all night. Lebreau felt for her friend, but she wasn't permitted to leave the bar, and without Justine, Lightning was her lone first-marked serving girl, the only one permitted to serve his table.

"Light," Fang showed up beside her then, concern scrawled across her features as she touched Lightning's back. "You okay?"

Lightning exhaled in aggravation. "It's fine, Fang. Thank you for intervening back there." Lightning ran a hand through her bound hair, exasperated.

"You're better than that, Light." If she'd bothered to look at her, Lightning would've seen Fang's determined admiring there, maybe thought about the way her hand moved soothingly up her back, and noticed the care with which Fang spoke of her.

These things in her friend that never registered to Lightning. "Not if I'm still employed, I'm not." Lightning sighed.

Fang squeezed her shoulder. "I'll take this batch back to the table, Light. Save you a trip back."

Lightning glanced over to Fang then, gracing her with an appreciative smile. "You're such a sweetheart, Fang." Fang glowed, "A really good friend. Thanks."

Diminishing slightly, Fang averted her eyes slightly, finding Lebreau compassionately saddened for her. Fang looked away from even that.

"I'm making a quick stop to the restroom first. I'll swing back around before I come back to get the tray."

Lightning nodded. "Really appreciate it, Fang."

Lebreau called on after her. "Don't wash your hands before you serve them!" Lightning looked at her. Lebreau shrugged. "What?"

Lightning shook her head as Lebreau filled the last shot of a round Table Four had ordered.

The heavy clomps of his booted feet unmistakable, Lightning turned quickly, hoping to escape to her table before he arrived— and steered right into his waiting arm at her hip, which insistently, drunkenly, pulled her back to the bar. "C'mere, Darling," Dysley swiped one of the shotglasses from her wavering tray and downed it with a refreshed exhale, where the cup dropped lazily to the bar along with his arm. He grinned at Lightning lustfully. "Fang has good tastes in women, but she's not what you need, honey. You need a man with experience under the belt." His hand rubbed at her back, making Lightning crawl inside. She struggled to balance the tray half between them.

"Dysley," Lebreau spoke up before Lightning could, "Can I get'cha something?"

He barely cast Lebreau a glance. "Nah, darling, I got all I need right here." Pulling the tray from her, Dysley pushed it back on the bar.

"I have to deliver those," Lightning insisted, trying to slide away from the man.

"Ahh, but a drink first," Dysley grabbed another shot off the tray she was to deliver and, to Lightning's growing horror, started holding it up to her lips.

"No," Lightning tried to step back politely, but he followed. She stopped the glass before it reached her lips. "Really," Lightning insisted, chanting Serah like a mantra in her head. "Stop."

"C'mon, Sunshine," Dysley purred, hand lowering on her back as he leaned in with the cup, "Show us some rays." He squeezed her ass.

Lightning grabbed his wrists and gave a decisive push back, where old man Dysley fell against the barstool.

"You assaulted me?" Dysley's features twisted in anger. "Too good to accept a drink from your boss, stewardess? Pushing and shoving to deny a simple drink? I've had about enough of your defiant insolence! Lightning, you're fired!"

Lightning's heart skipped a beat. "Sir— "

"Dysley!" Lebreau barked, seeing the horror cross Lightning's features. Her mind flipped for the easiest way to save her friend. "Lightning's pregnant!" Both Dysley and Lightning's heads flipped Lebreau's way. "She can't have alcohol, give the girl a break. You almost just killed her baby!"

Dysley blinked stupidly, then looked to Lightning, who gaped open-mouthed at Lebreau. "Pregnant?" he glanced over his shoulder where Fang had disappeared. "With the Yun? Shit."

"Yeah!" Lebreau confirmed, "Fang won't be happy to learn you're firing her woman because she wouldn't harm her child for you."

"I've seen it too, Dysley!" Some brave soul volunteered from table two, "You grabbed her ass there! Making an unfriendly environment for a taken woman!"

"It's not his first abuse!" Some other anonymous caller yelped.

A woman from one of the tables picked out a pad and paper from a small backpack by her chair and approached Lightning, taking her a few steps aside from Dysley. "I'm Desma, a freelancer for The GC Quarter. It's my job to expose Sanctum's inner corruption; can you tell me, Lightning, how long has this been going on?"

"The Yun's chosen a Cocoon mate?" Someone else exclaimed in surprise.

"Maybe Dysley should be the one being fired!"

Like dominoes, one voice became two before another three following and soon, the whole hall was buzzing in uproar with three other journalists approaching Lightning for coverage into the mishaps of her job and relationship status with Fang. Lightning backed away from the three until she hit the bar, where Lebreau watched awe-struck. "Lebreau," Lightning hissed, grabbing the front of her coat to yank her half onto the bar. "Meet me in the bathroom." She released for what passed for Lebreau's shirt and returned to her sudden reporters, pushing through them with complaints of lightheadedness. They quickly scattered for other sources as others pulled their attention away.

Lightning fled to the bathroom, somewhat glad for the cacophony through which she wasn't followed before she stood alone in the bathroom, running a hand through her hair until Lebreau arrived moments later.

As soon as the door shut behind her, Lightning grabbed the girl and thrust her against the wall. "What the fuck, Lebreau!"

"I was saving your job!"

"Everyone in the party hall thinks I'm pregnant! I have reporters asking me about my sexual relationship with Fang about a baby I don't have!"

"I didn't say her name!" Lebreau squeaked. "I couldn't just let you get fired, Light! It was the best thing I could think of on the spot!"

"I'm not even gay, Lebreau! What the hell are we supposed to do about this? You expect me to lie to the newspaper writers? And what the fuckdo I tell Fang?"

Somebody cleared their throat then, and from around the second bend corner of sinks stepped Fang. "Light?"

Lightning startled enough to suffer a miniature heart attack. "Fang! What're you doing here? Why're you in the g— " Lightning recovered enough to realize the senselessness and rudeness of the question. Because Fang's a girl."Sorry," Lightning apologized, "That was stupid of me."

"It's alright," Fang forgave, though Lebreau detected the hint of sadness in her from it. "A lot of Cocoonians ask that... it's a little too different, I suppose." Lightning winced, about to apologize again, but Fang changed the subject too quickly. "What's going on out there anyway? I heard something about pregnant and me?"

Lebreau looked between the two, mentally calculating. "I may've fibbed a little."

Lightning sighed, "Lebreau just told a workroom full of people and undercover reporters that I'm pregnant. With your child." Fang's eyes widened. "Yeah," Lightning groaned, "And it spared my job to point Dysley the villain, but… obviously it's not true."

"Yeah, but… who really knows that but us?"

Lightning saw the glow in her eyes at that. "Lebreau, no. Whatever bad idea you just thought up of, put it away. Fang and I will figure this out."

"But what if it's a good idea I just had?"

"You never have those." Lightning dismissed.

"But really! I'm thinking— "


"…maybe we should go through pretending with it."

Lightning glanced from Fang to Lebreau cautiously, "Did you both just suggest the same thing?" No immediate confirmation came, but they had. "Now I'm scared."

"Come on, Light!" Lebreau encouraged, "It's perfect! You get to keep your job, I remain un-mocked from the public for lying, Dysley's painted the pervert he is, and at the end of it all, you can just fake a miscarriage with no one the wiser to it!"

Lightning looked to Fang then, who gave a small shrug. "If it'll keep your job…" she glanced at Lebreau quickly, "And Lebreau out of trouble, I'll do it."

"You know there'll be publicity on this?" Lightning reminded her, giving an out, "Cameras, maybe a story or two in the newspapers, some questions… and I'll have to wait awhile before I fake a miscarriage. Could bring up a little stir on it later again too."

"If you're… you know, okay with acting like… like I'm your girlfriend in public, Light, then I want to help. I don't wanna see you get in trouble 'cuz of this." She glanced over again to include Lebreau, "Either of you. We're friends; I want to help out, if you're comfortable enough with it."

Lightning sighed. "I can't believe I'm agreeing to this. 'Breau, remind me to kill you later when this goes wrong."

"Alright!" Lebreau cheered, "You gotta get angry now, Fang! Get mean, your girlfriend's just been assaulted!"

Fang's brow darkened. "Tell me what he did."

"Oh, it was disgusting," Lebreau emphasized, "Jerk grabbed her and tried to pour the drink down her throat! Probably drugged it. He was looking to get laid," Fang scowled, "He's been abusing her like that for months, too! Grabbing her ass, hiking a feel of the goodies, grinding Lightning against that old, saggy body. He tries to fuck her, you know."

"Fucker," Fang growled, scowl menacing her pretty features.

"He's made her touch his dick before too." Lebreau added.

"I'll kill him."

Lightning barely caught Fang sight of her movement before Fang was out the door. She looked to Lebreau tiredly. "Touch his dick, Lebreau?"

"Maybe that was me." Lightning cringed, "Was it too much at that point? Let's go see what Fang's doing!" Lightning sighed and started for the door, momentarily stopped by Lebreau's hand. "Wait, Light! Look upset. You said you could cry earlier?"

"Shut up." Lightning growled, pushing out the door anyway.

"Well, I guess aggravation works too." Lebreau followed on after.

Blinded by a crowd that'd gathered to circle, Lightning pushed through the throng of them with Lebreau at her back—

To find Fang gripping a bloodied Dysley by the tie hauling back the punches.

No one dared go to his rescue, but phones were out with videos and pictures being snapped away rapidly. "Fang!" Lightning surged through the crowd and grabbed Fang's lifted arm. "Fang!" Fang's swing started anyway with Lightning on her arm, but froze at the first sight of pink. "Fang," Lightning repeated, stilling with her.

Fang's arms were around her then, and Lightning couldn't even be sure when she'd dropped Dysley and turned. A chorus of Aww's went up around the room with a few people scrambling to Dysley to check vitals. Lightning wrapped her arms around Fang in turn, as was her part to play of the charade. "You alright?" Fang asked, spoke close to her ear over the chaos of everyone around them.

"I could ask you the same," Lightning mumbled back, "I hope you didn't kill him. Murder charges weren't in the plan."

"As long as you're okay now," Fang squeezed her. "That's all I care about."